Looking back: Irish Honors over the years

Ed Forry

By Ed Forry
Ten years ago, when we first gathered with some friends and advisors to discuss how to sponsor an annual luncheon featuring stories drawn from Boston’s large Irish community, we had a central idea in mind: We hoped to honor the remarkable people and families in our community who truly exemplify the best qualities of the Boston Irish.
In telling their stories, which speak to our heritage both here and in Ireland, we seek to reaffirm our immigrant roots and recall, with gratitude, the men and women who came here and made Boston our home. 
Boston is an exceptional city because of all the cultures that have joined together to make it their home. It’s a team effort. But we believe it is important for those of us with roots and heritage in Ireland to tell our stories— to pass forward the tales of exemplary families for the benefit of our children, ourselves, and those who are coming next.
At that first gathering in October 2010, we told the inspirational stories of three families- the Geraghtys, the Bretts, and the Hyneses descended from the late Boston Mayor John B Hynes- and of two individuals, leading businessman and philanthropist John Donahue, and Malden’s Ed Markey, who was a veteran member of the Congress and now serves as US senator .
Our plan for an annual event was not to present awards, but rather to give public recognition to exemplary persons and families and honor them for the examples they have set. Thus we called it Boston Irish Honors.
Over the ensuing years, the programs have featured the compelling narratives of some 40 Boston Irish men and women and families from many walks of life- from business, medicine, public service, non profits to the law- all of their stories compelling and inspirational, and in each instance, all honorees delivered moving, inspirational and often humorous remarks as they spoke before luncheon audiences of 300 to 400 guests.
One of my vivid memories came during the 2011 event, when Brockton State Sen. Tom Kennedy, who used a wheelchair for decades, rolled up the ramp to the stage to make his remarks. In the audience was his 101-year-old mother. After the program, he told me that as he talked, his mother began making gestures to him – sort of a slashing sign, her signing a way of letting her son know that he was going on much too long!
Typical of an Irish mother, Mrs. Kennedy was both proud of her son, and eager to make sure that he not become too self-impressed.
Jim Brett, a member of our luncheon committee since the beginning, remembers that his friend Tom told him later it was the best moment of his life, to be honored while his mother was there with him.
Sadly, Mrs. Kennedy passed away several months later, and her son died just four years later.
There’s an old TV program that began, “There are eight million stories in the city.” That can be said convincingly about our own Boston Irish community as well.
Last month, we were privileged to tell three more tales of the Boston Irish- the family stories of Jim Carmody, Grace Cotter Regan and Kathy & John Drew. We were honored to meet and hear them at our gathering at the Seaport Hotel on October 18. We invite you to read their stories in today’s edition.